The 60s Official Site


Remembering Bobby Darin

by David Soulsby, author of the novel Somewhere in the Distance


I became an instant Bobby Darin fan the moment I heard Dream Lover booming out of the fairground speakers as the carousel whirled round merrily in its giddy, up and down jerky fashion. It was a song that captured the moment: I was in my early teens and life seemed so innocent and free of worries. It's a song that remains with me to this day. Along with Beyond The Sea, Clementine, You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, Multiplication, Eighteen Yellow Roses and If I Were A Carpenter it brings back fond memories of a time long gone but not forgotten. 

Picture the scene in late 1968: Bobby Darin is still recovering from his divorce from Sandra Dee, and still reeling from the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, who he supported tirelessly during his presidential campaign. His brutal death hits him hard. These shocks and disappointments and the revelation that the women who he grew up knowing as his mother and grandmother were in fact just the opposite haunt him. They’re devastating blows to his very being. In this state of confusion and depression he takes to the Big Sur in California and opts for a reclusive life, exchanging the trappings of fame and celebrity for a simple trailer and seeking to ease his troubles among the vast beautiful scenery and soothing tranquillity of the inspiring surroundings … 

Bare footed, his loose shirt flapping in the warm breeze, Darin strolls along the beach, sand between his toes, the sound of the lapping waves competing with the squawk of the circling gulls that glide and swoop overhead. He bends to pick up a large pebble and playfully skims it across the water, watching its rise and arc before it eventually vanishes into the vastness of the Pacific. Other times, treks through the beautiful forests bring a sense of wellbeing and humility.

It’s an ideal environment in which to heal the wounds, clear the mind and rekindle the creative juices. Despite the heartbreak and disillusion he determines to come through it all and rebuild his life and career. Back at the trailer he sets about writing a clutch of fresh songs that will give him a new lease of life.

These songs are appropriately entitled Songs From Big Sur. My favourite is Jingle Jangle Jungle. Simply because it’s so catchy. You just have to go along with its lively feel. Other songs that stand out are Long Time Movin’, Long Line Rider, Baby May, and Distractions. They’re as good a collection of songs as you’ll hope to find, mixing rock ‘n’ roll with blues and folk/country influences.

Anyone not knowing who he was would take Darin to be just an ordinary guy living the back-to-nature lifestyle. In his jeans and casual shirts he would be seen chopping wood for kindle, growing some of his food. He prepared his own meals, washed and laundered his clothes. It was afar cry from the wealthy life he turned his back on. But it paid dividends. He found peace of mind … 

Returning to early in the Sixties, I recall going to see the movie Come September with school friends. We went because it had Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee in it. They weren’t the main stars, but that didn’t matter to us. We just wanted to see the young stars on the big screen. And they didn’t disappoint. As well as highlighting his singing prowess, the movie gave Darin a chance to show that he could act as well. He would, of course, go on to excel in other roles throughout the Sixties and earn respect among the movie fraternity.

Darin appeared on British television several times and was always popular with audiences. He had a way of making you feel comfortable. He had a real presence. I did see him perform live once on tour in Britain at the start of the Sixties. The memory isn’t crystal sharp but I do remember being excited at the time. 

Sadly, Darin died on December 20 1973 aged just 37. It was short life, not unexpected given the health problems that had dogged him since childhood, but it was a shock all the same. Forty years on and he is not forgotten. When you talk about versatility there were few singers around who could match him. He tackled pop, rock ‘n’ roll, ballads, folk and country and stamped his personality on them all. That’s his legacy.

David SoulsbyDavid Soulsby lives in Romford, Essex, England, and is now Somewhere in the Distanceretired after 46 years as a journalist. During his career, he worked on local and national newspapers and magazines, and in the Sixties met many of his musical heroes, including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Brown and Mel Torme. He’s now freelancing as a writer and proof-reader, working from home. He’s the author of Somewhere In The Distance, a novel about four friends growing up in the Sixties.